-- Richard B., New York
As the weeks go by and the Sox continue to play mediocre baseball, it gets harder to imagine that things are suddenly going to click when nothing has clicked consistently for a stretch of over four months. However, I wouldn't rule it out. This team, even with Will Middlebrooks out for the season, still has a lot of talent in that clubhouse. Also, some of the teams the Red Sox are chasing in the Wild Card standings aren't exactly juggernauts. The second Wild Card makes a Boston comeback more realistic than it would have been in other years. In other words, keep the faith for now. There's no reason not to at this point.
If the Red Sox end up not being playoff contenders, will we see some rookies come up for some crucial playing time?
-- Daniel D., Houlton, Maine
Outstanding question. I do believe that if the Sox fall much further back than they are right now, you will see some youth down the stretch. For example, why not play Ryan Lavarnway behind the plate for an extended period of time to see what you have there? Ditto for Jose Iglesias at shortstop.
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How is Daniel Bard doing down in the Minors? Is he ready to come back up to us yet?
-- Carol R., Colfax, N.C.
Unfortunately, Bard continues to have a very rocky time at Triple-A Pawtucket. It seemed as if he was on the verge of returning to the Red Sox when he went six straight outings between July 19-31 without giving up an earned run. Since then, however, Bard has given up a run or more in three of his last four outings. On Saturday, he gave up three hits and three runs over one inning. Given that inconsistency at Pawtucket, it's hard to imagine things would immediately click again in the Majors.
After reading today that David Ortiz won't return on Sunday without any real explanation, isn't it reasonable to infer that his injury is a lot more serious than we have been led to believe -- that is, he might be out for the rest of the season?
-- Jim U., Potomac, Md.
I agree that the injury has healed slower than Ortiz or the Red Sox had hoped. But I still don't think it's season-ending. It is one of those delicate injuries that can't be rushed, otherwise Ortiz could risk a complete tear of his Achilles. There is no magic formula for how long it takes this injury to heal. In the meantime, everyone will just have to stay patient.
What are the Red Sox planning on doing about the struggling Josh Beckett? It seems like his time in Boston is coming to an abrupt end.
-- Rajan M., Montville, N.J.
This might not be the most popular answer among Red Sox fans, but the best-case scenario would be for Beckett to start pitching well and give the team hope he could once again be a frontline starter. Otherwise, with nearly $32 million left on his contract the next two seasons, Boston would have to pay a lot of his salary even if the club traded him. The best way for the Sox to get a return on the investment they made in Beckett is to do everything in their power to help him rediscover his form.
Why is John Lackey traveling with the team if he is out for the year?
-- No name submitted, Ontario
It seems like players can't win in these situations. Remember when everyone was furious that Jacoby Ellsbury wasn't with the team and cheering his teammates on when he was battling back from an injury two years ago? Now, Lackey is vilified because he is staying around the team and trying to be supportive. The main reason Lackey travels with the team is because Mike Reinold is one of the most renowned trainers in baseball when it comes to Tommy John surgery rehab. If Reinold travels with the team, it only makes sense for Lackey to do the same.
You don't seriously think the Red Sox will bring Dice-K back until rosters expand in September, do you? Or does he have to come back because of how long you can rehab? Unless one of the six starters goes on the DL in the next few days, he certainly has not performed better than any of them -- including Beckett and Aaron Cook. And Franklin Morales is the second-best starter we have right now.
-- Jon G., Brazil, Ind.
Matsuzaka didn't start his latest rehab until July 30, which means the Red Sox can keep him on a rehab assignment until Aug. 28, which is right around the time rosters expand. I think they will keep him on standby in case a need arises. As we've seen this season numerous times, unexpected injuries can and will occur.
I'm sure you haven't thrown in the towel, but I can't fathom the Sox standing pat this coming winter in light of this disastrous 2012 season. Dice-K will be off the books, but they will still need to make a decision on Lackey and others. Starting pitching absolutely needs to be addressed. What do you think must happen to get us back in to contention?
-- Wes H., Nashville, Tenn.
This is the third consecutive season the starting rotation has underachieved, and this is as big of a reason as anything the Red Sox might miss the postseason for the third year in a row. There's no question that Boston could use another frontline starter. Clay Buchholz looks primed to be one for years to come, and there's no reason Jon Lester can't bounce back. But beyond that, there are questions.
What about acquiring Derek Lowe?
-- No name submitted, London
I understand the sentimentality when it comes to the thought of Lowe returning to the Red Sox. He played an enormous -- and at times, underappreciated -- role in what happened in October 2004.
Lowe signed with the Yankees on Monday, so it's a moot point, but there was a reason the Indians released him. He wasn't pitching well at all. To think Lowe could immediately regain his groove just because he puts the Red Sox uniform back on might have been a bit of a stretch.